Markakis fuels O's 94th win, most since '97

Jimenez solid across five-plus innings; Cruz hits 40th homer

Markakis fuels O's 94th win, most since '97

NEW YORK -- If there was any doubt what Nick Markakis means to the Baltimore Orioles, look no further than Tuesday night's performance.

Markakis, who returned to the lineup on Monday after missing four games following a hit-by-pitch to his right shoulder, had four hits out of the leadoff spot, including a two-run homer that highlighted Baltimore's 5-4 victory over the Yankees.

"Yesterday, he was ready to go," manager Buck Showalter said of Markakis. "I said, 'Do you want to DH?' He said, 'No I'm playing right field. Today, he really turned the bat loose. There was no caution there. I thought J.J. [Hardy] had some better swings tonight, too. I think we're starting to gear up a bit."

The win, just their second in five games, gave the Orioles (94-63) their highest single-season victory total since 1997 and kept them 2 1/2 games behind the Angels for the American League's best record. The O's, who locked up home-field advantage for the AL Division Series on Monday night, would secure home-field throughout the postseason if they're able to pass the Halos.

"Every game's important," said Markakis, who turned in his first four-hit game since Aug. 10. "Every chance you can get home-field advantage is definitely big, and we've still got five games left. We've still got some baseball to play and can do some things that we want to do."

Markakis' three-RBI effort was complemented by three hits apiece from former Yankee Kelly Johnson and Nelson Cruz, who extended his career-high total with his 40th dinger in the fifth inning. Johnson's second-inning long ball opened the scoring, and the trio of homers helped chase Yankees starter Brandon McCarthy from the game after 5 1/3 innings. The O's reached the veteran right-hander for five runs on 11 hits -- the most McCarthy has allowed since being traded to New York in July.

"Obviously, we've only got so many games left and then it's go time," said Johnson, who continues to build a solid case to make the O's postseason roster. "It's time to start getting back to picking it up and winning. I think it's a little bit expected that you kind of drag a tad [after clinching], but at the same time, there are five or six games left. Time to go."

Baltimore's Ubaldo Jimenez also put on a solid show, holding the Yankees to two runs over five-plus innings. Jimenez -- making his second appearance since he was removed from the rotation last month -- kept the Yankees hitless until Mark Teixeira's fourth-inning double, and he exited after issuing his third walk of the night, which put runners on first and second in the sixth.

"I thought this was one of my best games, in terms of commanding the fastball," said Jimenez, who had some of his best stuff this season coming out of his pregame bullpen session. "I was able to use a lot of fastballs, getting ahead in the count after the first inning and working ahead."

New York, which went on to score a run charged to Jimenez in the sixth off right-hander Brad Brach, pulled within one run with two outs into the seventh on Brian McCann's two-run homer off Andrew Miller (one of the runs was charged to Darren O'Day). After Tommy Hunter navigated a 1-2-3 eighth inning, closer Zach Britton pitched around a two-out walk in the ninth to pick up his 36th save.

"He threw hard sinkers," Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter said of Britton, who struck out the Yankees' captain on three pitches to end the game. "I'm trying to extend the inning. That's basically it. So he was better than me tonight, and I may face him again."

Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.